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Dith Pran, a Cambodian journalist whose story of survival is told in the film The Killing Fields, will speak on “Surviving the Killing Fields” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 14, in room 104 of Lafayette College’s Kirby Hall of Civil Rights. The talk is free and open to the public.

“I’m a one-person crusade,” says Pran. “I must speak for those who did not survive and for those who still suffer. Like one of my heroes, Elie Wiesel, who alerts the world to the horrors of the Jewish holocaust, I try to awaken the world to the holocaust of Cambodia, for all tragedies have universal implications.”

The Killing Fields portrays Pran and Sydney Schanberg, then a New York Times correspondent, covering the civil war in Cambodia from 1972 to 1975. Although Americans and Cambodian dependents had already been evacuated from the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, Pran and Schanberg remained there cover its fall to the communist Khmer Rouge on April 12, 1975.

Shortly after the takeover, Pran, Schanberg, and two other journalists were arrested by the Khmer Rouge and held for execution. Pran saved their lives by persuading the Khmer Rouge that the three Westerners were neutral French journalists. After their release, the four took refuge in the French embassy until foreigners were asked to turn in their passports and Cambodians were ordered to leave.

Exiled to forced labor camps in the Cambodian countryside — the “killing fields” — Pran endured four years of starvation and torture. In October 1979 he escaped to freedom in Thailand. He lost over 50 relatives at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, including his father, three brothers, one sister, and their families. His mother died later of malnutrition. Only he and one sister survived.

Pran founded The Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, Inc., and compiled a collection of memoirs from fellow survivors of the killing fields that was published in 1997. A member of the Asian American Journalist Association, Pran has been a photojournalist for The New York Times since 1980. He was a 1998 Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient, and was appointed Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1985. He also has testified several times before the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives regarding the Cambodian situation.

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